Points to Emphasize
Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to present your human side along with your professional persona.
- Make sure your response is genuine.
- Describe the specific qualities your chosen person has that have influenced you.
- Include details about how this person’s impact led to greater success in your career.
- Keep your answer clear and honest, but brief.
Mentors are an important influence in most people’s lives, but it’s what your reply reveals about you that counts.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
This question has its fair share of potential land mines. Here’s how to evade some of them:
- Have an answer ready; responding with “I haven’t really been impacted by anyone” could make you sound arrogant and hard to work with.
- Don’t reference past difficulties with supervisors or colleagues.
- Don’t let your description of your mentor overshadow the main focus: you, and what you bring to the company.
- Resist the temptation to give a disingenuous response, such as naming the company’s CEO as your greatest influence (unless it’s absolutely true and you can back it up with details while avoiding sounding like a sycophant).
A rock star reply to this question might go something like this:
My first supervisor had a reputation for being no-nonsense, so I was a bit intimidated to be assigned to her department. I soon found that although she had high expectations of her team members, she had equally lofty expectations of herself. She always demonstrated integrity and honesty. She went out of her way to demonstrate her commitment to her team and anticipate what we needed in order to be most productive. If she asked us to stay late, she stayed late. She publicly recognized our accomplishments and handled tough conversations with employees firmly but tactfully and respectfully. I learned a lot from her about how to supervise and motivate a team and how to convey professionalism at all times. I aspire to apply these principles as a manager in the near future.
Your answer should leave the interviewer with positive evidence of your character, judgment, and work performance.